What is meant by Feral cats?
Feral cats are those cats which live wild, where a group of feral cats live together, this is referred to as a colony.
They shun human contact, though starvation will often force them into close proximity with us when scavenging for leftovers.
Ferals may have been born into the colony or they may have been stray or abandoned cats that have reverted back to a semi-feral state.
Starvation, ill-health, disease and over-population often provoking culling, are amongst the biggest problems faced by feral colonies.
There is a big difference between a lost cat which may be initially a little scared of being handled by a stranger and a true feral cat which will be irreversibly frightened to the core.
Can they be domesticated?
In order to domesticate a feral cat it is really necessary to be able to intervene whilst that cat is still a kitten. Once past the eight week stage it fast becomes increasingly difficult to reduce the kittens' fear of human contact.
You will always hear people bragging about having domesticated their family cat which they claim, was a feral when first found, but in most cases the cat was probably just lost a few days before and simply a little scared for the first day or two.
There is a world of difference between this and a truly feral cat.
Neutering Feral Cats
It is normally essential to use a special humane trap with which to catch feral cats safely, so that they can be taken to the vet to be neutered or otherwise treated.
During anesthesia it is good practise for the vet to ear-tip, for future identification purposes. This is done by surgically removing a six milimetre sliver from the left ear.
This is a lessor cruelty than the consequences of failing to indicate effectively which cats have and have not been trapped, assessed, treated and neutered.
What can be done to help feral cats?
The best thing to help feral cats is to put out dried food regularly, as opposed to tinned meat which will soon be covered in fly eggs and to provide a warm, dry hideaway for the cats out of the wind.
In the long term the stability of a feral colony may be dependent upon its size.
Should the colony grow too large then its existence will become increasingly threatened by people to whom the cats may constiute a nuisance.
You can do the best for the colony by having neutered all it members, which will will help contain its population growth.
Found Some Kittens?
If you have feral kittens growing up in your back garden you should try and get a rescue organisation to take them as soon as possible.
If you are near to us in Tyneside then please do contact us at Westgate Ark as we may be able to come out or suggest another reputable local cat rescue organisation or cat rescuer.
If they are less than five weeks of age, then the mother should be trapped and kept with them in a pen suitable for feral cats, for the next few weeks at least.
What then happens to the mother?
When seperated, the queen, if a feral, should be spayed, ear-tipped and returned to the place where she was caught.
To force close contact upon her, if unwelcome, can be cruel and dangerous. It is a necessary evil to return a feral cat to her point of capture, but now spayed and ear tipped then at least the miserable cycle of more feral kittens born is broken.
This is what she is used to and there is normally no viable alternative. Sometimes it is possible to secure a place for a feral cat on a farm or stables but such suitable offers are few and far between.
We normally try and keep such places for relocating feral cats whose colony is under some form of threat.
Our Feral Help Programme involves:
This feral cat rescue and homing involved three adolescent cats that were stuck in 'no-mans land'. Too old to be domesticated fully within a reasonable time, yet too young to be in with much of a chance of surviving the cold and brutal life of a feral cat.
This photo shows the oldest youngster nicknamed Charlie, cuddling up with two other slightly smaller feral youngsters also rescued. The three started a new life on a small holding near Hexham with owner Mark caring for them.
All three cats have now been neutered and are used to people to some extent. On the small holding they have plenty of dry sheltered spots with someone feeding and caring for them, but also the freedom and space to be independent.
The next feral cat for trapping and spaying is a mother of about one year of age who was born and has lived in back gardens in an area of Fenham. The cat is a full feral and is the mother of the two kittens trapped by us and featured in our News Flash page.
We are looking to raise the sum of £45 in total to get her spayed so that she will not be able to bring any more kittens into the world as any future litters from her may not be saved in time!
The two we have rescued this time are a bit older than the ideal rescue age and our work is cut out for socialising them sufficiently to get them homes as domestic cats.
The fact that the two kittens were rescued with a bad respiratory infection will retard their progress further as they have had to be isolated. We are in the 'catch 22' position, that more handling increases the risk to passing on the infection to others, but less handling means less socialisation progress and we are already against the clock on that one!
Donations for the feral mother can be made to our paypal site using the button on our website!